Thursday, November 21, 2013

The oddness of Riyadh: the place and the people (part 2).

Here is the next colourful instalment in the rich tapestry of Tefl weirdoes from Saudi Arabia. I was quite relieved to find out that I don't feature amongst them!

Mr.K (1)
A retiring Brit who spent nearly 15 years in Saudi camped in front of the TV. Never a day went by without him roundly cursing the place and its people. He was saving up to buy a house in Bulgaria, but sadly died before he could move in, meaning that he died full of personal misery, having been unable to appreciate the fruits of his labour. 

A strange Canadian who went to bed at 6pm daily so that he could wake and exercise at 4am the following day when it was not yet hot. He would frequently boast about the $5000 carbon fibre wheels on his triathlon bike, but was less sure about why he had never won a single event, even though he only ever competed in events with just a handful of entrants. 

Mr. K (2)
An Irishman with a propensity to throw chairs through windows after consuming illegal hooch during in-house karaoke sessions. Whilst in work he gained the reputation for being a compulsive liar and having a reluctance to admit that he didn’t really have the qualifications he said he had, owing to the fact that he hadn’t finished the courses he embarked on.

Mr. D
A diminutive Welshman with a large appetite for alcohol and whoring. He had been employed in various (in)capacities at virtually all colleges in the city, and legend had it that he once lasted more than one term at the same place. Dismissed (many times) for turning up for work roaring drunk, he was finally ordered to leave the country – only to be refused boarding the plane, due to his advanced state of inebriation. Last heard of in China, having married a Chinese prostitute.

‘Dr’ Y
A tall American who arrived to work as a ‘counsellor’, owing to his PhD in Psychology. He expressed a great interest in the welfare of the local whores, and spent most evenings acquainting himself with the city’s brothels. He took out an enormous loan after just a few months, and then promptly left the country on a pretext. Never returned.

Coming next: the big two!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The oddness of Riyadh: the place and the people (part 1).

Sandy McAnus is proud to present a series of pieces dedicated to that shimmering hub of teaching excellence, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of my contacts over there, based in the capital of The Gulf's shining light of democracy, has bravely volunteered (no inducements were offered, really) the following tribute to his equally singular colleagues.


When I arrived in Riyadh a few years back, I had little idea of what would befall me. Having never been to the Gulf region before, there was much of a muchness about choosing a particular location -  they all seemed the same, and were equally desperate to recruit me. When two teachers dropped out of a PREP Programme at the prestigious King Faisal School Riyadh situated next to the American Embassy in the Diplomatic Quarter, two vacancies arose. With some research I noted that the school was home to much of the ruling elite of the country, with the Bin Ladens and the Al-Sauds being the more obvious benefactors. Yet generally, as is often the case with such dodgy institutes, there was a paucity of information about the place - just a bunch of sour grapes by some sad Tefl twats who either got fired or walked out because they were about to get fired. Aside from that, I knew very little.

The first thing people notice about working in Saudi is how painfully slow the visa process is, not to mention the cost of it. After running around for the best part of two months, however, I was soon on board a flight crossing hour upon hour of gleaming sand, wondering whether I had done the right thing. My main reason for going was because I wanted to get SARS; yes, that’s right - SARS. Not the bird flu kind, but Saudi Arabian Rials … or ‘fluse’ as it’s known locally.

Upon arriving in Riyadh, I was met and taken to a 3-star hotel on the edge of the city. This place doubled  as a knocking shop for fat Saudis and Bangladeshi boys, with the room opposite me being the main hub of activity, unfortunately. On my first day at work I was told that there would be a three week induction period before the students arrived, and that I should use that time to get to know my colleagues and the city. That was when the fun really began. Looking back, I regret not noting all this down at the time, as I have told many I could have made millions from revealing the antics that occurred in the first few months. Given the nature of it all, like many observers, I was too stunned to act, and completely unable to overcome the disbelief that occurred on a daily basis.

The job itself did not get off to the best of starts. One teacher resigned on the first day, rather than pander to a bunch of spoilt Saudi brats all year, whereas another teacher, Palestinian, was fired shortly after for allowing a boy to drown in the swimming pool during a poorly supervised sports day. I befriended what few ex-pat teachers there were, not yet aware that this is not always the best thing to do in the Gulf region. My colleagues were a whacky bunch of misfits, all of them mad in their own way, though two of them were clearly beyond anything I have ever come across. I will mention the merely unbalanced characters first, before moving onto the real crackpots.

To be continued